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May 07, 2005

Comments

Darrell Spice, Jr.

Go ahead and include it in science class - but make sure it's only as an example of poor science due to lack of rigorous scientific testing to back it up as a theory.

Jim M

Actually, Owen, the polarized ends of this debate are the Bible literalists who are trying to get religion taught in schools as science, and those who want science taught as science. That's what this debate is about.

Outside of this debate about schools there are other debates, and one such is between a very few non-believers in God and a very large force of Bible literalists. But that debate is seldom heard from, except when invoked, usually by Bible literalists but sometimes by mistaken outsiders who haev been misinformed by the claims of Bible literalists, as if it were part of the debate about science teaching in schools. It isn't part of it.

Daniel Conover

Jim M. wrote: "the polarized ends of this debate are the Bible literalists who are trying to get religion taught in schools as science, and those who want science taught as science."

And that's it. That's all. Everything else is really a different discussion.

Mark A. York

There is no debate in the scientific community. The only ones debating are the religious dogmatists who simply want affirmation of their beliefs. What they have is not science. Based on what we know it's fiction.

Mark A. York

The addendum to that is science isn't trying to answer the ultimate question that religion is.

Owen

Jim M -- your point is well taken, although I think it oversimplifies the rather complex motives of some ID people. Many want it to supplant or "balance" evolution teachings, of course, and to me these are the scary people on the fringe. Pointing our the shortcomings of ID "science" is unproductive because their faith trumps facts, and relegates scientific method and findings to a moral black hole they can neither respect nor tolerate.

Some religious strategists are using it as a political wedge issue to get religion into the school by any means, though, and are acting in reaction to what they view as anti-religious (as opposed to religion-neutral) policies. The slippery slope here is, of course, advocacy for THE religion -- usually Protestantism -- replacing official respect for all religion (or none). They don't want equal time, they want government approval for proselytizing for the majority faith. Most don't see the conflict with a system built on tolerance of multiple beliefs.

For these folks, it's irrelevant if the "fact" base for religion is biology, mathematics, political science or history...it's access and official endorsement they want.

Ran Talbott

"Your broad denouncement of anything or anyone religious is not."

Interesting how taking this assertion out of context turns it from "nonsense" into "truth"...

There's no broad denunciation going on here, Bob. It appears that, like a general re-fighting the last war, you're responding to statements you've seen made in previous discussions, in other venues, rather than to what's being said here and now.

Ran Talbott

"Now this isn't some human designer, it is an omnipotent being."

Not necessarily: even though the principal proponents of ID are pushing their particular deity as the designer, it's not an inherent part of the hypothesis.

You're also assuming that having a perfect system from the git-go was a design goal, when it's just as possible that the ain objective was to test the system's ability to tolerate flaws.

anthrosciguy

The problem, Owen, is that in ID there is no "fact base" for religion, and in fact the very people who came up with ID are the people who admit (to each other) that they are simply trying to introduce religion and pretend it's science. ID has nothing whatever to do with challenging the science of evolution.

And they're not even trying to get the "majority belief" in there; they're trying to get the beliefs of Bible literalists taught. They do try to get people to think that one must either be a Bible literalist or not be a Christian, and they are somewhat sucessful with this false dichtomy because people are famously unfamiliar with science, as well as with their own faiths and what they say. Most Christian faiths, however, don't require one to be a Bible literalist; indeed, the Bible is generally considered to be not literaly true but rather a book of spiritual truths within Christianity.

The problem is one of a number of dishonest people trying to dupe a lot of ignorant people. The ignorant should undo their ignorance so they can't be easily duped, cause those dishonest people are not going to stop trying.

Mark A. York

Yeah William Demsky one of the founders of the ID movement is quite a piece of work. This is indeed a human designed agenda tool and nothing more. Nothing in nature is designed in this fashion. It's a series of fits and starts and dead ends eventually arriving a some sort of localized success over 100s of millions of years.

I realize that's hard for ordinary folks to comprehend but they should and adjust their beleifs accordingly to the avoid above and beyond where it belongs.

Mark A. York

void

tomjedrz

There is a essential mis-representation going on here. The ID proponents are not trying to replace evolution, but rather to have it acknowledged in the schools that evolution is a theory and that there are other theories.

It is the "evolutionistas" who are in fact trying to limit what is taught, control the clasroom, and through that control the minds. The condescension coming from the evolutionistas, even in this tame and civil forum, is striking.

I have to wonder ... what do they fear from the presentation of ID in the classroom?

I have yet to read (here or elsewhere) a cogent answer to that question. Lots of hysterical answers, lots of irrelevant answers, but no cogent, well-reasoned ones.

mythago

I have to wonder ... what do they fear from the presentation of ID in the classroom?

That science and scientific inquiry will be misrepresented in the name of teaching children what is, in fact, a particular brand of Christianity.

By the way, Bob and others who are tantruming about Dan picking on religion certainly do not speak for "religious people". Bluntly, it's propaganda and a lie to paint a particular stripe of conservative, evangelical Christianity as "religion" and everything else "not religion." Plenty of us who are, in fact, religious believe that our children should learn science, not faith, in school.

Ted Feuerbach

Very good Mythago.

tomjedrz says:
"It is the "evolutionistas" who are in fact trying to limit what is taught, control the clasroom, and through that control the minds."

Yes, limit it to what is scientific truth, not superstition. And you try to change the name of those who support The Theory to something that sounds like Sandinistas or Revolutionistas. We are Scientists. Period. Don't try to use semantics to discredit. It only makes your argument weaker.

tomjedrz also says:
"There is a essential mis-representation going on here. The ID proponents are not trying to replace evolution, but rather to have it acknowledged in the schools that evolution is a theory and that there are other theories.

There are *NO* other theories. Period. ID is not a scientific theory. Period. ID is an artificial creation that *might* only be called a Hypothesis (Assuming there is some evidence to point that way). If I have to beat this dead horse again I'll probably explode, but here it is: In common terminology the word Theory means something close to a guess. In Science, when something gets through all the peer review and debate and is accepted as Scientific Fact, it becomes a Theory. The Theory of Evolution is, as it stands today, after about 150 years of debate and clarification of its details *IS* scientific fact. Period. Get a clue.

Owen

"The problem is one of a number of dishonest people trying to dupe a lot of ignorant people. The ignorant should undo their ignorance so they can't be easily duped, cause those dishonest people are not going to stop trying."

You are wrong to impute such character flaws. ID people are motivated by faith and act consistently with that faith. They may be wrong in their interpretation of fact, may be wrong in their conclusions, may be wrong in their actions, but that doesn't make them dishonest or their followers ignorant. That kind of arrogant putdown does nothing to advance the discussion.

Those of us who put our trust in fact, science and logic -- none of which are inconsistent with belief in a deity -- would do well to remember that throughout history, what experts "know" and have proven by "scientific method" has been embarrasingly wrong from time to time. We're not going to convince faith-based advocates by abusive language and disparaging comments...it weakens our position and makes us look unreasonable instead of them. Focusing efforts on the positive evidence of evolution is much more credible. The schools should not take on the task of destroying the faith of the ID adherents or bowing to the equally strident atheism of those who deny the existence of a deity. Their problems are their own.

Daniel Conover

tomjedrz:

"I have to wonder ... what do they fear from the presentation of ID in the classroom? I have yet to read (here or elsewhere) a cogent answer to that question. Lots of hysterical answers, lots of irrelevant answers, but no cogent, well-reasoned ones."

Just looking back over the posts on this single thread, one has little choice but to conclude that your reading comprehension is simply not that good.

anthrosciguy

Owen, ID people are, by their own admission, trying to sneak religious teaching into schools under the guise of science -- that is dishonest, and the facts there are not in dispute. The Wedge Document (which I linked to above) demonstrates it.

And tomjedrz, since ID (by the admission of those who developed ID) is a relgious movement masquerading as science, it does not belong in the classroom, unless it is in a comparative religion class. And what's at stake in the Kansas hearings is the idea that, in their words, what's taught as sciewnce should be decided not according to what's true and known, but what's popular. That is insanity.

tomjedrz

Daniel wrote (about me) ..
"..., one has little choice but to conclude that your reading comprehension is simply not that good."

This is typical. Instead of making an argument you throw an insult. I noted that I didn't find compelling arguments in the posts, so you insult me. Perhaps the problem is not in my reading comprehension but in the presentation and persuasion. Could you point me to a post that in your view cogently answers my question?

You rant on about why people don't get it, yet you persist in condescension and the attitude that your conclusion is the only one that can possibly be valid.

tomjedrz

I wrote ...
"I have to wonder ... what do they fear from the presentation of ID in the classroom?"

mythago replied ...
"That science and scientific inquiry will be misrepresented in the name of teaching children what is, in fact, a particular brand of Christianity."

Fair enough, but this seems to me to be a slippery slope argument, and is easily dealt through curriculum design and textbook review. I am sure that a fair-minded group could craft a discussion of other proposed explanations for the origin of man and the universe that are not evangelical and that stay away from establishment issues.

The problem is, when only one theory is presented, it is the "defacto" fact.

As ted feuerbach noted (along with another gratuitous insult), in the minds of the evolution proponents it is a theory in name only.
"The Theory of Evolution is, as it stands today, after about 150 years of debate and clarification of its details *IS* scientific fact. Period. Get a clue."

Ted .. how long did the scientific community debate and clarify that the world was flat before figuring out that it was round? Is it reasonable to assume that folks who advocated the teaching that possibly the world wasn't flat were told to "get a clue"?

tomjedrz

In the interest of clarity ... I do think that the folks in Kansas are trying to go way too far. To not teach evolution is a fundamental error, if for no other reason than it is highly instructive in how the world works.

Evolution, like Newtonian physics or Euclidian geometry, explains most of what we observe and makes a fair amount of sense. In addition to biology, the evolutionary process shows itself in virtually every human endeavor.

But, that does not mean that it is the only possibility, or that there are places where it is not a good fit. I just think that the existence of other ideas and the main tenets of those other ideas should be presented.

Owen

tomjedrz:

The attitudes you have (correctly, I think) identified in Daniel's comments are the norm, not the exception, in discussions about this whole topic...from both sides. I don't think true believers on either side will be convinced regardless, but at least the level of discourse can be reasoned and respectful. Dropping to the level of rants and personalization does nothing for anybody.

That said, it's all too easy to say "You haven't convinced me, therefore you have to include my theory." For schools, this isn't about equal access...it should be about fielding a curriculum that is as sound as possible, not waffle language that undermines a substantial body of scientific knowledge.

I do understand the frustration of those who have examined ID and see it as less than robust science supported by objective evidence. It's like those who insist that the holocaust didn't happen and want their position included for "balance" in a history curriculum, or those who want white supremacist views incorporated into political science classes (please, no flaming...I'm not equating them to ID).

The decision to include a perspective in a classroom has to be based on some judgement of the viability of the idea by people with that responsibility. It isn't a matter of pro- or anti-religion people in education as it is too often portrayed. Making that decision requires intellectual clarity and moral and political courage, all of which are becoming rarer commodities in areas of public life.

Daniel Conover

tomjedrz:

I stand by my comment, which is neither a rant nor a slam. Your post was either made without reading and understanding the earlier comments or simply disingenuous.

You wrote:

"There is a essential mis-representation going on here. The ID proponents are not trying to replace evolution, but rather to have it acknowledged in the schools that evolution is a theory and that there are other theories."

(Multiple posts explained that all science is "a theory," and that while ID is somebody's theory, it is not a scientific theory. To be a scientific theory it must be testable and disprovable. ID is neither.)

"It is the 'evolutionistas' who are in fact trying to limit what is taught, control the clasroom, and through that control the minds. The condescension coming from the evolutionistas, even in this tame and civil forum, is striking."

(Someone else pointed out your the verbal trick of disparaging scientists by making reference to the Sandinistas, but moving on... Science does not attempt to control the mind. It attempts to be science. Then you attempt to put on the cloak of victimhood without ever addressing the only meaninful point: Why would anyone rationally favor teaching something that isn't science in a science class? If people get frustrated with you on this point, it's not because they're mean. It's because you refuse to get the point.)

"I have to wonder ... what do they fear from the presentation of ID in the classroom?"

(Quite a bit, actually. If you can win the power to teach non-science in science class, then you've really accomplished something awful, and as an American, that scares me. Again, you shift the burden to others when you haven't established the basic validity of your thesis.)

"I have yet to read (here or elsewhere) a cogent answer to that question. Lots of hysterical answers, lots of irrelevant answers, but no cogent, well-reasoned ones."

(Please cite an example from my posting that shows evidence of hysterical rhetoric. Otherwise, listen. again: ID is not science because it cannot meet the standard of a scientific theory. As I said before, ID could be right -- I even tend to believe that aspects of it may be right -- but it is not science. Politics and religion have no business in science textbooks.)

On a somewhat related subject, I wrote a story in March 2004 ("Science: Ignoring the heretics?") about a maverick local biochemist, Christian Schwabe, who has been trying since the 1980s to have his Genomic Potential Hypothesis accepted for serious peer review. This is an NIH-funded researcher with tenure, but without peer review, he can't advance or defend his theory. So it just sits there.

The GPH is a scientific theory, although the requirements for testing it are really out there. I've read his book, and while I'm no fan of his GPH theory, I think he deserves a hearing.

So far, the only people speaking up on his behalf are myself, a publisher in Texas... and the ID/creationists. Chris, by the way, despises the ID movement because "it's not science."

Unless you want to make the case for redefining science as a discipline, then you must be subject to its rules. Sooner or later, you just have to accept that there are some answers that simply don't care whether you like them or not.

tomjedrz

Daniel ...

At the end of your post you wrote ...
"Unless you want to make the case for redefining science as a discipline, then you must be subject to its rules."

No argument. Apparently the Kansas folks are talking about changing their definition of science, but as I noted I think they go way too far.

With respect to the "ID is not a theory" discussion, while I can't argue with the specifics I take issue with the concept. A theory, no matter how much it is discussed, beloved, and adopted as truth, is not proven. Until it is the "law of evolution", it should be acknowledged as possibly incorrect (or insufficient). Currently, the teaching is that "we can't prove it, but we know it is the truth (wink, wink)". That is, in my view teaching dogma far more than teaching of the existence of ID.

As to the comment about hysteria .. although condescending and insulting, you have not been hysterical. The host, however, started us out with the following:
"As America fiddles, replacing science with religion, our future may go up in the smoke of self-inflicted ignorance."
This I think does cross the line into hysteria, or at the very least over-dramatization.

jason

tomjedrz wrote:
I have to wonder ... what do they fear from the presentation of ID in the classroom?

I have yet to read (here or elsewhere) a cogent answer to that question. Lots of hysterical answers, lots of irrelevant answers, but no cogent, well-reasoned ones.

One reason is a question of time and priorities. There's a reason why we don't teach theories that the earth is flat, that luminiferous aether is the medium that light goes through, that phlogistons are the source of heat, or that genetic characteristics can be acquired by extended use. The reason is because there are facts from hundreds, perhaps thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of rigorous and replicatable experiments and observations that discredited these theories.

The scientific mode of thinking is not an easy one to acquire, and it is easy to parrot back an understanding of the scientific method without truly grokking it. I know because I don't think I really "got it" until I was 2-3 years into graduate school.

If you really had to distill it down to one thing, it's all about evidence. We humans fool ourselves all the time. Why do gamblers see patterns where there are none? Why did people use to believe Thor caused lightning? Why do some people believe that if God made Eve from Adam's ribs, then men must have fewer ribs than women?

The scientific mode of thinking strives to create a body of knowledge about the world, as well as theories that explain why things happen the way they do or help predict how things will happen.

For a scientist, rigorous facts and the process used to acquire those facts are what matters most. Sometimes hunches and intuition will point you in the right directions, but ultimately, scientists need to craft repeatable experiments or undertake repeatable observations that demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that their beliefs are correct.

Now, I'm not saying that the scientific mode of thinking is the be all and end all of things. I have met artists, actors, politicians, and musicians who all had really amazing insights about the world we live in. But if we can agree that teaching our kids science is important, why waste time teaching them something that is ultimately unscientific (other than to demonstrate that it is an unscientific way of viewing the world)?

Intelligent design does not have a body of facts that supports it, nor does it represent the process used by the scientific community to argue things. And I, for one, would be reluctant to so simply discard a way of thinking that has yielded modern medicine, modern physics, electronics, genetics, the Internet, and other countless wonders.

jason

One more quick comment:

A theory, no matter how much it is discussed, beloved, and adopted as truth, is not proven. Until it is the "law of evolution", it should be acknowledged as possibly incorrect (or insufficient). Currently, the teaching is that "we can't prove it, but we know it is the truth (wink, wink)". That is, in my view teaching dogma far more than teaching of the existence of ID.

To some extent, I would agree that we scientists can be dogmatic at times. However, what is written above is a common misconception about the nature of scientific theories, especially that of evolution.

Einstein's theories on gravity have replaced Newton's. Why? It certainly wasn't because Einstein tried hammering it through a local school board, it was because his theory accounted for the facts better, and have been demonstrated time and time again to be a better predictor of observations.

However, I really doubt you will find many physicists that would believe that Einstein's theories are "proven" to the desired extent quoted above. Any good physicist will readily acknowledge that there many open questions about it. It is, though, the best theory that describes and predicts the mountains of data scientists have collected over the past decades. I would say the same is true of biologists with respect to evolution.

Science is an ongoing process, a continuous quest to quench our thirst for knowledge. It is not meant to be a static thing (though it is unfortunately sometimes taught that way, as you have noted).

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